Guest Speakers: Peter Burridge & Cherry Parker
Topics : "Fingerprint Technology" (Peter) & "Behind the Scenes on Election Day" (Cherry)
Peter Burridge was our first speaker and quickly drew us into the wonders of fingerprint technology. Peter served in the police force including in Salisbury, Rhodesia and latterly in the Auckland fingerprint section covering the top of the North Island. However during his tenure in the force originally as a constable and then in CID he was involved in “scene of crime” forensics all around the world.
He linked DNA and fingerprinting technology as complimentary which was aided by modern computing but for him in the earlier years he carried 1,024 fingerprint combinations in his head – not digitally. There are 3 types of fingerprints: Loop – representing about 60% of the population, Whorls about 30% of the population and Arch about 10%.
Prints can be recorded from a porous surface such as paper or from non-porous like glass and plastic. Documents can reveal 100 year old prints and even the tips of fingers can at times provide sufficient information as can the palm of a hand. He emphasised that giving evidence is hard work and you really need to know your subject.
Peter told us that in Salisbury fingerprints were stored in huge buildings with bomb proof rooms. In New Zealand we do not have National Registration so what is stored is because the prints belong to people who “have been in trouble”. It is now possible to identify from a small portion of a fingerprint, you do not need 12 identifiable points. The Commonwealth identification system is an excellent and co-operative organisation.
Peter concluded by saying that Technology will always change but you have to know how to use it.
It was also a meeting of old colleagues like Ian Robinson, Bret Bestic and Lindsay Todd – a grand morning.
Cherry Parker was our second speaker and gave us an insight into organising an election in New Zealand and her responsibilities as Returning Officer - making sure that personnel were trained, polling booths organised and everything ready to go – not by 19 September but to ensure procedures were in place for advanced voting by 5 September.
To give us an idea of the extent of the organising needed, there are 24 electorates from Papakura to Warkworth compared to 1 on the West Coast. This entails employing 500 people per electorate. The total number required for New Zealand extends to 32,000 trained people. The 2020 election is more complex due to COVID and the extra space and precautions necessary. Each electorate headquarters is required to have 600 square metres of floor space. Many of the smaller previously used facilities on election day such as church halls are unable to be used this time. They were instructed to operate under Level 2 controls in case the country needs to revert Level 2 virus conditions.
Early in July, Cherry who is overseeing the Auckland Central area, received 14 palettes of “cardboard” furniture and a further 10 palettes were due mid-July and then closer to the date a further 3 palettes containing voting papers and registers. Training is Monday through to Saturday with two sessions per day from the beginning of September.
There will be 30 voting places on the North Shore and 106 in Northland alone. However advanced voting commences on 5 September with 12 places available on the North Shore. Polling day starts at 9am with 35 staff counting the Advanced Votes at the headquarters, and those are the first progress reports that go onto our TV at 7pm.
At 7pm voting day the booths close and the boxes get sorted - voters often put their vote into the wrong box. The counting is progressive with the Party votes counted first, then for the shore the Harbour votes, the East Coast votes and the Te Tai Tokerau votes. They push “send” and again it immediately on our home TV.
Sunday they work from 8am to 4pm as all boxes are packed up in a special way for sending back to HQ, every Roll (list of registered voters) has to be de-spined and every page scanned to the Registrar of Electors. Monday they begin to count the votes again.
Dealing with Special Votes is a very long process and takes about 10 days. Referenda votes will not be counted on the night and it will be about one week before results are known.
Each electorate will handle 35,000 to 45,000 votes, not allowing for the people who vote twice (and up to thirteen times) but beware those people will be found and will be prosecuted. Last election in her electorate there were 8 people who multi voted – all were traced as when they scan the roll pages it throws up the dual votes. A team of people can take 5 – 6 hours to trace the multiple voter – then none of their votes stand. Should you die between casting your vote and election day, your vote is not counted! So take care.
Recounts: Not a popular mission. They are done in total silence, a lawyer cannot touch any papers but can ask questions, a Judge sits in and if the “recording” is at all contentious the judge decides the outcome. There is very tight security during a recount and if anyone needs to use the bathroom they are accompanied by a Returning Officer. The entire election process is law driven and Officers are provided with a thick manual on procedures.
So unlike the 1984 snap election they have had time to train and organise but it has been more complex and some criteria changed due to the virus. Our thanks to Cherry for a fascinating insight into the workings of an election – makes our effort of turning up and ticking a few boxes an anti-climax in comparison.